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The Senate took the highly unusual step of working on the weekend to pass the USA Freedom Act -- after it failed to do so and took a whole week off for Memorial Day anyway, like all regular Americans do. But while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had wanted to pass a clean bill to protect our freedoms from the terrorists who want to read all our sexts and listen to our phone calls -- oh wait, that's the National Security Agency, not the terrorists, whatever -- one brave senator stood in the way and blocked the bill, for freedom or at least for grandstanding and fundraising for his laughable presidential campaign:


The Senate advanced legislation 77-17 to reform the National Security Agency on Sunday, but parts of the Patriot Act will nonetheless lapse for a few days amid opposition from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The legislation, called the USA Freedom Act, will not reach President Obama’s desk until after the three measures expire at midnight, meaning that the provisions will expire until the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by Obama later this week. [...]

Paul argues the USA Freedom Act — which was approved by the House 338-88 earlier in May — does not go far enough to rein in spying programs that he and his allies argue are unconstitutional.

“Are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? Are we going to so blindly go along and take it?” Paul said in heated remarks on the Senate floor before the vote.

See, the Senate wants to renew the Patriot Act forever and ever, but it also wants to address some of the issues Senators eventually noticed, about how maybe it shouldn't allow government agencies to do whatever they want in the name of freedom. Just about anything they want, but maybe with a couple of guidelines. Thus, this "reform" bill to tell the National Security Agency to behave itself a tiny bit better, which Rand Paul thinks is still not good enough or freedom-protecting enough.

On the one hand, sure, we appreciate senatorial sentiments of wanting to protect Americans' right to privacy from their own eavesdropping government. On the other hand, that senator expressing those sentiments about "freedom" and "liberty" and "privacy" and "rights" is Rand Paul, and it's hard to take him seriously when he also believes the federal government should be in the business of legislating vaginas and telling The Gays equality is not for them, and Just Say No to decriminalizing marijuana and stuff like that. Also, too, we're not sure we want to trust a self-appointed expert on national security when he skipped most of his Foreign Relations Committee hearings and Homeland Security hearings because he was busy doing other more important things. Like getting ready to run for president. On the other other hand, we enjoy the hell out of watching Republicans eat each other alive, and most of the Republicans in the Senate do not care for Rand Paul's kabuki shenanigans, like, AT ALL. They're already planning to blame Paul if his theatrics cause any harm to our national security. And some of the crankier senators aren't mincing their words one tiny bit:

Tensions between Paul and other Senate Republicans were evident throughout Sunday’s proceedings — particularly when the Kentucky Republican sought to speak in opposition to the bill when Sens. Dan Coates (R-Ind.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) were holding the floor.

“The senator from Kentucky needs to learn the rules of the Senate,” McCain said. [...]

“I think he obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation,” sneered McCain.

Rand Paul took a victory lap on Sunday, even while admitting it's a mostly meaningless victory, since the Senate will reconvene again Monday and probably manage to pass a bill Tuesday or Wednesday anyway. But hey, at least it allowed him to retweet supporters who claimed to #StandWithRand and to remind them that he's got plenty of freedom-y swag for sale at his campaign website. So everyone wins!

[The Hill]

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I'd mentioned this week that there's definitely probably a tape out there of Donald Trump referring to a black person as a "nigger," because Trump is a racist and that's sort of what they do. Sarah Huckabee Sanders won't even affirmatively deny such a tape exists, and she's from the "two plus two equals five" school of communications management. I also speculated that once the tape was released, Republican supporters of the president would flock to defend his vile words: "Hey, if you rearrange the letters in "nigger," you get "ginger" and who doesn't like redheads and the occasional Dark 'n' Stormy?"

The shameful display has already started and the supposed recording isn't even available for pre-order on iTunes. George State Senator Michael Williams stated in appearance on CNN's "New Day Saturday" that if Trump -- who's the president, by the way -- did say "nigger," it would certainly concern him as an "individual" but "not necessarily as a person that is running our country." So, uh, what the hell is that? This has been a standard argument from Republicans ever since Trump crawled his way out of the sewers of birtherism and onto a major political stage: "We think Trump is a terrible human being -- seriously, we have to shower immediately after meeting with him -- but we still think he's a suitable steward of the most powerful nation on the planet."

Normally, you'd think this would work the other way. You know, your brother-in-law is a nice enough guy. Your sister certainly could've done worse. You don't mind the slightly rambling sports-ball discussions with him at family gatherings. He's good for looking after the kids (as long as your sister is present or reachable by cell), but you'd never invest your hard-earned money into whatever half-assed business venture he's trying to get off the ground nor would you back his run for any serious political office.

I've long had issues with the "brilliant asshole" archetype in TV and movies. It's almost always a white male (because women and minorities must be perfect) whose emotional immaturity and overall jerkass behavior we're told to overlook because they're so goshdarned awesome. Do you want some PC "cuck" or do you want Dr. House to figure out that the MS symptoms you're suffering are really just because you ate a stale doughnut? Sherlock Holmes doesn't have time for your feelings or social niceties -- not while he's solving mysteries and being dreamy.

Trump, however, isn't "brilliant." He's just a guy who says "nigger." They're hardly a scarcity in the market. You don't even have to venture out to a klan rally to find one. You can order online -- same day social media delivery.

Williams argues that Trump didn't use the word "nigger" when he was in the "office of the president." It was just some youthful indiscretion when he was almost 60. I don't even know where he's going with this. Does he think Trump has changed? He routinely insults and belittles black people. He also calls black NFL players who peacefully protest "sons of bitches." Was that his way of weaning off calling us "niggers"? Has he been wearing a "nigger" patch on his arm to control his cravings for the racial epithet?

"He used the word in his personal life," Williams said. (It was actually in a workplace context -- SER) "Now if he were president and were to go on TV and use the n-word, I'd have a major problem with that."

media.giphy.com

It's heartening repulsive to see that Williams draws the line at Trump holding an official "nigger" press conference. I think once we reach that point, Trump will probably also reveal that his buddies on the Supreme Court discovered a typo in the Thirteenth Amendment and black folks' work-life balance will start to really suffer.

"I will always say using the n-word is wrong, and it's bad, and should never be accepted in our society. But just because (Trump) might have done it years ago, not as our president, doesn't mean we need to continue to berate him because he used it," GOP state Sen. Michael Williams, who is white, told CNN's Victor Blackwell on "New Day Saturday."

Blackwell, who is black, had to sit there and listen to this crap from a white elected official who is just 45 years old. You know, the word "nigger" doesn't even appear in the Dred Scott decision, for example, but that's not necessary for reasonable people to understand that it was racist as hell. We all know Trump is racist, but now Republicans can't even repudiate the worst demonstrations of his racial animus. The first black president hasn't even been out of office for two full years and already "nigger" is being redefined. What would once end a campaign in its tracks when Blackwell and I were growing up is now just an "oops, my bad."

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Conservatives want to be oppressed. Or, rather, for everyone to think they are being oppressed and to then give them what they see as the impunity and moral upper hand that comes along with being an oppressed group of people. They want it very, very badly and think it is very unfair that all the people they have oppressed have this privilege and they do not. This morning, Trump took to Twitter to vow to protect them from the worst kind of oppression of all -- imaginary social media censorship!

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